Getting to Know Esther Mitchell
(an interview FAQ)
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The following questions and answers are excerpted from a series of interviews and chats I've done over the years. At the bottom, you will find a comment/question block, where you can submit your own question. If I'm able to, or if I deem the question of merit, I'll post your question and my answer here.
How did you start your writing career? When did you know you wanted to be an writer?
*laughs* I wouldn't say I so much started writing as I was born into it. Writing has always been a lifelong pursuit of mine, and my solace through many a trying time in my life. From the first time I learned to string a sentence together, or picked up a pen, I've been addicted to writing. The written word (first as reading, and then as writing) has been the one sane place I could always turn, no matter how insane my life gets.
I know I drove my parents crazy when I was small child, drawing squiggly lines on the pages of books (*wince* yeah, I know... bad!) which I claimed were stories I was writing in my head. Eventually, my parents figured out it was a better idea to give me a blank notebook, and a monster was born! *laughs*
Seriously, though, I still have those notebooks, and even though there's not a single legible word or idea in them, they still inspire me. They remind me what it felt like to just create, and rekindle the simple joy of writing whenever frustration and feelings of being overwhelmed by impossible situations, demands, and expectations bear down on me.
How would you describe your writing style?
My writing style has been a process of evolution, over the decades since I first started writing, but two elements have remained a firmly entrenched part of my writing, through all the changes. To this day, those constants remain: the human element (human emotions and how they impact our interpersonal relationships, whether romantic, platonic, familial, or acquaintance), and my love of suspense. No matter what kind of fiction I'm writing, you'll always find some little tidbit of suspense crop up. My personal and educational backgrounds have left with me a unique viewpoint for my fiction. It doesn't matter if I'm writing Fantasy, Science Fiction, Paranormals, Mystery, or Military Fiction, they always involve elements of Romance and Suspense.
Do you or have you traveled? Do the places you visit feature in your books?
I was born in the United States, but grew up between England and Germany, primarily, with a great deal of travel thrown in. So, I tend to view myself as a child of the world, and I don't consider visiting anywhere to be "traveling" so much as exploring the nooks and crannies of my home. My dream, naturally, has always been to explore the whole world, writing in detail about the places I explore. Culture and history are a part of who I am, and I'm very much aware it's the stories of the street vendor and the cab driver, or even just the random person, that tell you the most about a place, its people, its history and its culture. Those are the people who give real "color" to a location.
And yes, my time in Europe and my journeys in this world often feature heavily in my work, whether it's a place I've visited, someone I've met, or an event in my life that inspires me. But, even more, it's the lives I have yet to meet that keep me writing new and interesting locations.
How do you develop your stories? How do you come up with such attention-grabbing characters and plots?
*laughs* There's a loaded question! My characters introduce themselves, to start with. I constantly have characters "talking" to me. Once they introduce themselves, I draft extensive dossiers - think of it like an FBI background check. These dossiers get filed away until the right storyline or series comes along, and the character starts "speaking" to me again - about how they're perfect for one role or another.
Plots, I spend a lot of time crafting. Readers have commented on and noticed that it takes close to a year between books, a lot of times. The reason for this is simple - I'm researching and plotting for most of that time. The actual writing of a book normally only takes about a month or two, but I start plotting a good nine months to a year before, depending on the type of series or storyline. Plots often go through multiple revisions before I even start writing, and tend to be much more controlled and structured. Or, I should say, they are most of the time! *laughs* All the plotting in the world can't stop my characters from occasionally completely hijacking a book and making me write it the way they want. It's happened a few times!
Writing Romance with dark, gritty storylines seems out of place. What inspired you to write Romance in the first place?
Well, the specifics of the hows and whys are very private, but I will tell you that, regardless of all the darkness and terror I've seen in my personal life, I do believe in true love, and I do believe that every living creature on Earth is propelled through life by a desire to love and be loved.
That being said, I don't believe love necessarily conquers all (sorry, but death and disaster can easily trump even the most devoted love). Nor do I believe in the Fairy Tale concept of "Happily Ever After." I think that clinging tightly to that vision of love only dooms one to a much harder fall, when love goes awry, for whatever the reason. Instead, I hold a "Happy As Long as I Can Be" mentality - that is, making the happiness last through hard work and acceptance, even when the road gets bumpy. I don't believe in Prince Charming. My heroes come battered, tarnished, and rough around the edges. I have a lot of faith in the power of love to create something bright and beautiful from even the most scarred soul, and even in the darkest of circumstances. Hence, why I write Romance that's dark, gritty, and full of realism. Sugar-coating reality only cheapens real love.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge, with writing?
Acceptance, I think. I don't write mainstream Romance, and it's been a battle (one I'm still fighting) to gain acceptance in the Romance community. Most of my work is darker, edgier, more "real" stuff that makes some of the more traditional Romance readers uncomfortable. I dive right into the reality and real-world issues that most Romance authors try to avoid - I refuse to shy away from the dirty details of real life, and how they impact real people, in real relationships. That writing style has made it tough, but I'm just stubbornly dedicated enough to believe it's not impossible to succeed with.
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